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Director’s Report

At this conference of 2021, I have completed 12 years as Director of ACCI Relief and it is time for me to pass the leadership to another generation. This is a suitable time for this transition since Missions and Relief are at the highest ever level of effectiveness and fruitfulness.

It’s been a privilege to lead this mission and to build support for our relief efforts which have helped countless individuals and communities break free from poverty.

When I took over leadership of ACC Relief 12 years ago, the words ‘ACCI Relief’ only really existed on paper. While individual churches were supporting vulnerable communities both in Australia and overseas, there wasn’t a movement-wide approach or consistency around how we helped. We created a well-trained and qualified team of compassionate people that have helped us create a powerfully effective relief ministry. We are now operating in many nations and cultures, transforming communities, reducing poverty, preventing people trafficking and championing the cause of justice.

I am confident we are now a ministry that carries out the mission of Christ and the missions vision of our fellowship: including the call to help people in need. Importantly, this work is done in a way that’s respectful, sustainable and empowering of the communities we partner with. In fact, we’re doing this so well, that many ACCI policies and procedures are now being copied by other missionary organisations.

One of the finest achievements during my time leading ACCI is the work we’re doing through our Kinnected program. This work has two parts. Firstly, our case workers are helping reunite children who have been placed in orphanages with their families, while giving these families the tools and support to care for their children for the long term. Secondly, we’re working to change the conversation around institutional care – helping churches, individuals and even government see the dangers of continuing to invest in orphanages.

Another tangible way our ministry is helping the world’s most vulnerable people is through our annual 1Day campaign, which has been running for 11 years. By encouraging individuals and churches to sacrificially give one day’s salary to our work each year, we’ve been able to raise over $2.7 million for life-changing relief (and missions) projects, enabling our field workers to have an immense impact on their communities.

Finally, I’m very pleased to have set up the disaster plan for the ACC movement, which has raised over $6.8 million, since 2009, for people affected by major disasters in Australia and overseas. Together, we’ve helped rebuild homes after the Brisbane floods; provide support to drought affected communities; bring relief to victims of bushfires in Tasmania, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland and Western Australia; and so much more.

It’s been a privilege to lead this ministry and to play a part in restoring our passion for helping those in need. I remain grateful for everyone I worked with – particularly our committed and innovative field workers who commit their lives to helping people break free from poverty.

I want to give special thanks to Ps Wayne – our National President – and the National Executive for their confidence in me over this last 12 years and for their invaluable support, without which we could not have achieved so much. I want to also thank all our churches and partners, here and overseas, who have supported us and worked with us to help ‘Change the World’ for so many people.

Ps Alun Davies


Introducing Ps John Hunt

I’m excited about leading ACCI because I believe God has graced our movement to influence the world. Our culture, leadership, structures and approach, combined with our peculiar mix of both pragmatism and idealism, is unique. And we uncompromisingly get the job done.

I’m incredibly thankful for those who have gone before and have laid such a solid foundation. That includes all our current team and our field workers, who have displayed remarkable resilience and employed substantial gifts and talents. I am incredibly excited as we watch God position our movement for this next generational wave of the ACC to hit the planet.

According to the parable of the goats and the sheep, nations will eventually be divided into those which helped the poor and those which did not. Jesus said, “for as much as you have done this unto the least you have done this unto me.” We must go to find Jesus. He is there amongst the least of us: suffering amongst the last to receive healthcare, clean water and healthy food.

We must find him, minister to him and provide for him. This is our reasonable service of the great commandment to love one another and it perfectly co-exists alongside the Great Commission.



General Manager’s Report – Chad Irons

While the effects of the COVID restrictions has had an impact on donation revenue this year, the generosity of our church and individual donors to our Australian National Bushfire Appeal was overwhelming.  Over $600,000 was received through the height of the fires in January through March 2020, with another $400,000 received though our sister organisation, ACCI Missions.

More than 90% of this bushfire funding was disbursed prior to our 31st December 2020 year end. We were particularly excited about a partnership that allowed ACCI Relief Staff, ACC Churches and Chaplains to work alongside Services Australia case workers in order to provide case by case family support to those most in need.

Overall,  ACCI Relief has also continued to prioritise funding for our programs, with 89.2% of total expenditure directed to domestic programs, international programs and support costs during the year. Accountability and administration costs remain low at 6.5% of total expenditure, with fundraising costs continuing at less than 1% and community education at 3.1%. A copy of the full General Purpose Financial Report for the year ending 31 December 2020 is available for download here.

Our financial statements have been prepared in accordance with the requirements set out in the ACFID Code of Conduct. For further information on the Code please refer to the ACFID website at www.acfid.asn.au.

We are privileged to work with so many great people and project partners who have pivoted programs over the course of the last 12 months to response to the needs of the most vulnerable in the communities where they work.

Thank you for your continuing support as we continue to assist and empower vulnerable communities through these uncertain times.

Chad Irons,
General Manager


AOG World Relief, Vietnam

Helping communities navigate a year like no other


2020 was a difficult year for all our field workers, especially those working in already impoverished communities. In Vietnam, the AOG World Relief team not only helped partner communities navigate the impacts of COVID-19 but supported them through one of the worst typhoon seasons in memory. Through it all, the team kept true to its community development model – listening to those whose lives were impacted and providing a response that truly met their needs.

Removing impossible choices

Sharing a border with China meant it wasn’t long before COVID-19 cases started appearing in Vietnam. By late January 2020, Vietnam was in lockdown and daily life had dramatically changed for most people. One of the government’s earliest messages was for people to use hand sanitiser regularly and to wash their hands with soap and water, especially after they’d been in public places. Unfortunately, these items are out of reach for many Vietnamese.

“Many people couldn’t afford to buy soap and sanitiser, let alone choosing between buying rice and buying these items. Of course they’re going to choose to feed their children,” AOG WR Project Manager Rebekah Windsor says. To help remove this impossible choice, the team at AOG WR put together packs of soap and hand sanitiser and checked in with their local contacts, across the communities they partner with, to see which families needed help. “We’ve never been more grateful for our development model, which is locally led.” Rebekah says. “With lockdown, we couldn’t travel much but we had all our local contacts in place and we were able to identify and reach those who needed help.”

As well as helping other struggling groups in the community – including ethnic minority students at a boarding school and vulnerable people living at a local social support centre – AOG WR also lent a hand to the government’s COVID response. “Da Nang had another wave – it became the epicentre – and they were converting sports stadiums and convention centres into portable hospitals,” Rebekah says. “We checked in regularly with our government partners to see how we could help and ended up providing face masks and sanitation kits for those conducting border patrols, as well as people involved in the logistics of running the hospitals.”

And then came the typhoons…

Just when things were starting to get back to normal, Vietnam’s tropical storm season began… “Our region – central – got hit the worst. Within weeks, we had said goodbye to what we thought was the last wave of the pandemic and then the storms came,” Rebekah recalls. “We had multiple category two, three and four typhoons; it was compounded because it was just wave after wave of them. People would still be trying to locate the dead and fish them out of the water and then another would come…”

The team’s response to the typhoons again followed the principle of listening first and acting second. While other international aid groups were sending donations of rice and oil to disaster victims (not realising those worst affected were sitting in boats, with no ability to cook), AOG WR team members were speaking to their local contacts to find out what people needed. They provided bleach and cleaning supplies for the health stations (which everyone was using), tablets to sterilise the wells where drinking water is drawn, and cholera tablets. They also sourced essentials like nappies, wet wipes, women’s sanitary items and soap, and got them into the hands of those who needed them. In all, they supported 26 communes – around 150,000 people – with the items they needed to survive the immediate aftermath of the storms. These efforts were supported by 1Day funds.

Abundance

Throughout the crazy year that was 2020, AOG WR continued to offer the ongoing programs that help to empower and build resilience in communities. In and amongst lockdowns, they installed water bubblers and toilets in schools; ramped up promotion for a new sexual abuse hotline for children and adults; delivered child protection and advocacy workshops in schools; and screened countless children for heart disease (one of the leading causes of death in children in Vietnam).

Whatever the year threw at them, the team adapted and found the right way to respond. “The theme for 2020 for our team was actually abundance – abundant grace, abundant joy, abundant provision…” Rebekah says. “And in 2020, we saw God abundantly protecting our team and making a way for us to be able to help our communities. Our relationships are stronger; we have received so many thank yous from the authorities; our work even made the state news! It was a memorable year but God had our back big time.”


Allowing God to do what only God can do Josh and Belinda Groves, LESOTHO


2020 was a year like no other for Josh and Belinda Groves, who are the founders of Sepheo, an organisation supporting marginalised young people in Lesotho. While ‘stranded’ in Australia due to COVID, they led their team through an unprecedented year, not only supporting those associated with their programs but feeding their entire village as they faced starvation due to lockdown.

Here, they share how the events of last year grew their faith, shaped their team’s leadership ability and showed them what happens when you allow God to do what only God can do…

“Last year, Sepheo had to pivot because of COVID and so did we personally. We had to maintain our programs in an adaptive way because if we had have stopped our school, and our other programs, then we would have lost kids back to the street. We moved all of our school and lessons to the telephone and our teachers basically did a food and worksheet drop off weekly to all the kids in our program and called them and did lessons over the phone.

In April, before the first lockdown, we distributed soap on foot to 5,000 households and placed 10 mobile handwashing stations throughout the village, and had support mechanisms for topping up of water and the placement of soap. These have been running constantly ever since.
Once the first lockdown occurred, the need escalated immediately and we started seeing hunger on a mass scale. Our organisation is located in one of the poorest villages in Lesotho and the people who live in our village are mostly daily workers – so they’re getting paid for a day’s work and that’s a day’s food.

Usually, we deal with those who are the most excluded, the most vulnerable, the poorest of poor, but this was a leveller – where everyone fell into that bracket immediately. Our team were dropping food parcels to our kids and coming back and saying, ‘there’s a baby or child right next door starving’; you could no longer distinguish our children from the rest of the village.

So, our team undertook to get a month’s worth of food into every home in our village, which is 9,000 homes, or 35,000 people. In other parts of the country, government aid trucks were being turned away because of the mayhem surrounding feeding points. But our team managed to distribute food to 35,000 people flawlessly.

To do this, we set up 30 distribution points in our village, which were at the village chiefs’ houses. Our team then dropped ration cards to every house in the village with different pick-up points, days and times.

When we began, we had nothing in the way of the finances needed to do this. But for all these years, we had professed the truth to the village about who God was and what he does and how He cares, and we knew He would come through. And He did, in truly miraculous ways.

Our team knew this too. Over the years, they’ve seen God’s faithfulness in the little things and seen Him move in situations that we thought were impossible. So, they started acting as if the money was there. They were actually visiting homes and delivering ration cards – with the date and time on it – before we had enough to buy the food.

When our team visited each home, they also took note of other needs. We were able to compile lists of disability needs and care needs and abuse needs throughout our village, and have since been able to meet so many of those needs, in addition to what we were already doing. Because we were able to get into every home, our reach and our connection to the community has literally multiplied.

We’ve also been able to capitalise on the connection we’ve built with community leaders. While we continue to do targeted feeding – and have done this either side of the first lockdown – we’re no longer supporting everyone in the community. We are now facilitating a group of community volunteers to work together as a committee in order to receive and address community need, which expands the number of interventions that can occur because it’s not just limited to our small team. COVID has helped us to look for people who cared and who were trying to help, and to get resources behind them.

What have we learnt? That local teams who are well supported and well equipped can achieve far more than we can as foreigners. Watching our team taking initiative without us has been incredible. Feeding everyone in the village was their idea and it was their faith and their vision to say, ‘I see an impossible situation, what are we going to do about it?’”


Supporting safe deinstitutionalisation in Nepal


In 2018, ACCI launched the Kinnected program in Nepal, based on the successful Kinnected Myanmar model. Initial Kinnected workshops, held by ACCI, led to the formation of an advocacy group made up of local, mostly faith-based, organisations. Called Keeping Families Together (KFT), the group has proven to be very strategic and active – meeting regularly and outworking a range of activities.

Recently, KFT was asked by the government of Nepal to create reintegration guidelines and other deinstitutionalisation strategies for Nepal’s registered care institutions. Kinnected Program Manager Hannah Won says there are more than 500 such homes registered in Nepal, housing over 15,000 children. The primary reason for children being placed into these homes is access to education, however the country is also known for orphanage trafficking.

Hannah says while the government has a solid policy framework in place for alternative care, it lacks implementation guidelines. This results in rushed reintegration or haphazard reunifications of children – often with harmful consequences. The new guidelines will “… inform and create a roadmap for national deinstitutionalisation,” Hannah says. “Clear designations of various duty bearers at all levels of government will ensure not only that everyone is aware of their roles and responsibilities but that those who fail to perform their duties can be held accountable.”

The KFT group is currently working, with the help of Kinnected Nepal, to identify where the current gaps are in Nepal’s care system. KFT is also developing strategies for engagement and advocacy with the stakeholders who can fill those gaps. “For example, an unskilled government social workforce that is mandated with reintegration can be matched with social workers of experienced NGOs so that those skills can be transferred to the duty bearers to outwork,” Hannah says.

In addition to providing value for the government of Nepal, the project is helping KFT members – which are mostly NGOS – see where they can have the most impact in supporting safe and effective deinstitutionalisation in Nepal. Any progress made with government, where there is a clear path for deinstitutionalisation and the government is able and willing to enforce transition/closures, the easier it will be for KFT members to push transition forward with individual institutions,” Hannah says.

“Lack of government enforcement, intervention, accountability and resource are major obstacles to widespread deinstitutionalisation in most countries in the region,” Hannah adds. “Nepal has already shown strong political will and if KFT is able to guide them in the right direction, it could have massive impacts for all children currently in care across the country.”


Sharing lessons in transition KINNECTED


In 2011, ACCIR established the Kinnected program, becoming one of only a handful of organisations worldwide to holistically tackle orphanage deinstitutionalisation and transition children back into families. In the years since, we’ve observed many key trends in the motivations and dynamics of both institution directors and donors. These lessons, along with many others, mean we can often anticipate just how a transition might unfold. Our work, especially in Myanmar, has also taught us how to develop the safest and most effective strategy possible for carrying out this work.

In order to share these lessons with others, we’ve been working in partnership with the Better Care Network to develop a ‘Transitioning Models of Care’ tool. The tool, which was completed in 2020, provides vital information for organisations working in, or seeking to commence, transition support. It also offers a unique scoring system to help organisations identify the best recommendations for their context so they can develop a tailored strategy.

We see a real need for this tool given the rising number of organisations around the world now doing transition support. While many have the knowledge and experience to carry out this work, others are approaching deinstitutionalisation and transition through a narrow lens. We are passionate about equipping this new wave of transition support agencies and see this tool as a launching pad for wider engagement and coaching in this area.

In fact, we’ve already begun sharing it! In late 2020, 120 practitioners from 27 countries attended an introductory webinar about the tool. Our hope is that many other organisations around the world will start using this tool in the years to come, so that more children can realise their right to a family.


#EndCOVIDforall Partnership with MICAH AUSTRALIA

As COVID-19 tore through the globe last year, one thing quickly became apparent: many of the world’s most vulnerable countries were ill equipped to fight it.

“People living in the world’s most overcrowded slums and refugee camps couldn’t socially distance or ‘stay home’ to stop the spread,” ACCI Director Ps Alun Davies says. “Families who couldn’t afford to buy food certainly weren’t able to buy soap; many don’t even have running water. Poorly equipped health systems that were already barely coping didn’t have the capacity to respond to a pandemic…”

When the Micah Australia coalition invited ACCI to become part of an advocacy campaign calling on the Australian Government to help our global neighbours fight COVID, we were all in. “We were constantly hearing stories from our field workers about the tragic impact COVID-19 was having in communities around the world,” ACCI General Manager Chad Irons says. “We saw this as another way we could help those who are most vulnerable.”

Along with 150 other Australian businesses, churches and NGOs, as well as celebrities, health experts, scholars and thousands of everyday Australians, ACCI Relief signed up to the #EndCOVIDforall campaign. Together, we helped build public support for the government to increase funding to vulnerable nations to help them fight COVID. Together, we told our leaders: it’s not over until it’s over for everyone.

Our request was for the Australian Government to:

  1. Increase humanitarian funding and invest more heavily in global health programs. And to fund timely access to a COVID-19 vaccine for neighbouring countries which can’t afford it.
  2. Support weak health systems through providing developing nations with testing kits, personal protective gear and medical equipment. Also, to continue funding the vital projects that save lives: clean water, maternal and child health, and sexual and reproductive health.
  3. Support economic recovery through providing low-cost loans to Pacific nations, supporting Pacific workers in Australia and working with the United Nations to bring an end to developing countries having to pay interest on foreign debt.

The groundswell of support garnered for the campaign helped make some big government announcements possible in late 2020, including:

  • $80 million towards a global pact that will help vulnerable nations get access to a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • $304.7 million to help the Pacific and Timor-Leste deal with the social and economic impacts of COVID-19.
  • $500 million to help countries in the Pacific and South-East Asia roll out a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • A $1.37 billion standby loan to Indonesia to help fight coronavirus and improve its economic recovery.
  • $550 million to help nations in southeast Asia with new development, security and economic programs.

But it’s not over yet. The #EndCOVIDforall campaign has shown that Australians genuinely care for their vulnerable neighbours and want to see our country doing more to help. The Micah team, and its partners, plan to use this public support to convince the government to permanently increase overseas aid. The challenge to our leaders will be to first help the world’s most vulnerable fight and recover from the pandemic. Then, to help rebuild a better post-COVID world.


ACCI Relief is a member of the Micah Australia coalition, which is made up of 13 faith-based member agencies. Micah’s members work together to provide financial support, oversight and strategy for the campaigns that advocate for justice, and work together with people in poor communities for a world free from poverty.